Friday, 24 August 2012

Don't Steal From Me

My early celebration of Notting Hill Carnival, given it's only Friday 8.30am in London, has been abruptly halted with the news that Lance Armstrong will not challenge USADAs ruling that, ummm... What is their ruling?  I've not heard any formal charges they are laying down, and once again I question who they are.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency is not a Government Authority but is predominantly tax-payer funded and seems to have some sort of oversight of Olympic, Paralympic and Pan-American sport.  What we do without knee-jerk reactions from U.S. Congress?

Something I must highlight is that I will never speculate on whether Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs.  I wasn't there so I don't know.  Neither were you so don't make it up.  And if you were there I want to know what you have to gain from spilling your guts.  Professional cycling was rife with drugs during the 90's and early 2000's; maybe it still is.  If Lance Armstrong won 7 Tours while on drugs: cool- level playing field, maybe?  If Lance Armstrong won 7 tours clean, against incredible riders who later admitted doping: there's hope to kids that it can be done clean.

Jonathan Vaughters rode professionally from 1994 until 2003 and later admitted to doping.  Last week he wrote a brilliant opinion piece in the New York Times suggesting that all drug cheats were looking for was a level playing field.  It was not necessarily to get ahead but to get along side.  Riccado Ricco aside, maybe...

Whether the amount of drug cheats uncovered in cycling are a result of a drug riddled sport or a governing body serious about testing, I personally find Lance Armstrong an inspiration.  His sharp wit, unnerving charm, and imposing presence are the traits that give me something to aspire to.  I'm not afraid of anyone.  My daily job requires dealing with the angriest, most short tempered, small dick/massive wallet traders in the world.  But if I had to challenge Lance Armstrong I'd wanna have my story straight before I stepped up.  And I like that.  Whether you view it as redemption, glory seeking or anything else, the things he has done for Cancer research and exposure are admirable.

Now I don't know much about charity (despite my girlfriend being the national manager for brand and communications for a great charity in Make-A-Wish!) so I'm not sure if corporate sponsors would go cold on Armstrong after this ruling or what sort of flow on effects that 'kid that nobody likes' in USADA will have but I'm gonna tell you what shits me to no end...

Lance Armstrong retired from professional cycling years ago and was in the process of making overly-comfortable triathletes shiver in their onesies.  Armstrong had not hidden the fact that he wanted to race the Hawaii Ironman either as an age grouper or a pro.  As time went on it turned out that his times were too good for age group.  So he started racing half ironman races as a pro.  And he brought it.  It wasn't as though he was dominating in the ride enough to make up for a poor swim and poor run.  He was busting out credible times for all 3 disciplines- to the degree that he won 1, maybe 2 for memory, 70.3 races in the pro category.  If I were a pro triathlete I would ensure I was not beaten by a new comer, especially someone who brought so much media coverage to the sport.  But at the end of the day these were half ironman races.  Hawaii is a different sport.  Armstrong's first Ironman was supposed to be Nice, France in July this year but when your mates at USADA announced their witch-hunt WTC was obliged to ban him from racing so we'll never know.

WTC's reasons for banning him stem from rules put in place previously and actually enacted last year so this is another argument all together.  Also, I don't think he would have been a feature at Kona but I don't necessarily take inspiration from winners.  Lance Armstrong is a man who works hard at doing things other people say he can't do.  He has the added attraction of pulling them off so Kona was always going to be an incredible spectacle.  Instead, the incredible feats of human endeavour have been quashed by an 'authorative' body acting outside its poorly defined boundaries.

I titled this blog 'Don't Steal From Me' because it was the song I was listening to when I read that Lance Armstrong had given up fighting.  Ironically relentlessness is a quality I attribute to him so I don't think this is the end of great things.  In the meantime, listen to more Barrington Levy and celebrate Notting Hill Carnival this weekend!

If you want to see great things, watch my favourite Lance Armstrong moment of recent years:

If you want to see more great things, get into some Notting Hill Carnival!!

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